Fantasy Football is all about the matchups. Even though you drafted your team with certain hopes and intentions, your weekly lineup decisions shouldn't be determined by the order you picked your players in. You need to check who your players play and make sure you've got the right guys in -- and the wrong guys out.
It's too early to be absolutely sure on which matchups will be easy and which ones will be tough, but we can take some educated guesses based on healthy personnel, defensive schemes, track records and key details of offenses. The things we know can help us minimize the impact of the things we don't know. This should lead to better decisions being made.
We'll go through every game and highlight the players who aren't obvious starts and sits (because you don't need to be told to start Justin Jefferson). You should feel more comfortable starting or sitting players based on the information given, and feeling comfortable with your Fantasy lineup before the games start is the best feeling in the world.
It's also important to have a keen eye for matchups dictated by the remaining schedule. I am now updating my projected strength of schedule rankings every week over at SportsLine. My objective is to break down how the schedule affects every Fantasy relevant player for the upcoming four weeks, the playoff stretch and the entire season. You'll also be able to find my key takeaways on which players you should buy low, sell high and more trade advice.
Jared Goff QB
DET Detroit • #16
Age: 29 • Experience: 8 yrs.
Even without Jaire Alexander last week, the Packers held the Saints and their studly receiving corps to nominal numbers and even forced a quarterback change. I'm sure their plan will include bringing the blitz to Goff while staying disciplined on the back end. If Goff doesn't have time to throw, his numbers will be affected. Assume he can get close to 20 Fantasy points, which makes him a less-than-ideal starter. I'd rather start Geno Smith, Russell Wilson and Daniel Jones.
LAST WEEK: A rushing touchdown saved Goff's stat line in what amounted to a low-scoring, one-sided win for Detroit. His passing touchdown to Sam LaPorta came against busted coverage.
PACKERS: Blitzed a lot for the second straight week (nearly 45% of their snaps) but came up with a season-low 29% pass rush pressure rate against a good Saints offensive line. Part of the reason for it was because the Saints got the ball out quick on most pass plays, even when Jameis Winston was under center. The Saints had a low passing average, barely getting over 200 yards despite 34 pass attempts.
GOFF: Has held the ball a little longer each week, up to an average of 2.89 seconds per play against a Falcons pass rush that couldn't touch him in Week 3. He'll probably have to throw faster this week as the Packers have a good pass rush that ranks in the top-five in blitz rate this season.
ROAD WOES: Since arriving in Detroit, Goff has topped 20 Fantasy points (six points per passing touchdown) twice in 15 road games. One of those games was at Lambeau Field in 2021.
PACKER WOES: Since arriving in Detroit, Goff has 21 or fewer Fantasy points in each of four games against the Packers regardless of location.
GOFF: Obviously has better numbers when he's not pressured, and last week he finally began to crack when the Falcons got near him, completing half of 12 throws when pressured for 113 yards and the score to LaPorta. It's dropped his completion rate to under 60% on the season when pressured, but his yards per attempt popped to 7.8.
O-LINE: Guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai isn't expected to play, but starting left tackle Taylor Decker is trending toward playing, giving the Lions a better line than they had last week.
Sam LaPorta TE
DET Detroit • #87
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
With at least 11 PPR points in each of his past two, there's no sense in overthinking it on LaPorta. The rookie has evolved into Goff's second-most trusted target in the offense and should have a size advantage every week. He has become a must-start Fantasy tight end until further notice. He could even be considered a flex in PPR over D.J. Moore, Miles Sanders and Kyren Williams.
LAST WEEK: Broke out with an 8-84-1 stat line on 11 targets, all career-highs. His touchdown came on a broken play from near midfield, but he was involved early on (four first-quarter targets for 4-22-0), suggesting he was a key part of Detroit's game plan against the Falcons, who went with plenty of man coverage in the first half.
LAPORTA: Despite the short-area action versus man coverage early last week, LaPorta remains at his best against zone coverage, averaging 13.5 yards per catch against it. His catch rate is high against both coverages, which is nice, and he's averaging 7.3 targets per game, which is what matters the most.
PACKERS: Have been zone heavy in each of their first three games while also blitzing a bunch. Both should help a short-area target and after-catch guy like LaPorta reel in passes.
PACKERS: Gave up a short touchdown to old pal Jimmy Graham last week but otherwise kept Kyle Pitts (3.5 PPR points) and Cole Kmet (9.4 PPR points) under relative wraps through two weeks.
Jordan Love QB
GB Green Bay • #10
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Patrick Mahomes and Geno Smith have hit at least 23 Fantasy points against the Lions this season; only Desmond Ridder last week recoiled statistically. Even if Dan Campbell's crew uncharacteristically blitzed Love all game long he still would have a shot at connecting on big plays considering his receiving corps is at its best. Love has some large upside and should be considered a must-start over Jared Goff, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson.
LAST WEEK: Was on his way to being a big-time bust until he scored twice in the last seven minutes with a two-point conversion to notch his third straight game with at least 25 Fantasy points.
UNDER PRESSURE: Love's completion rate hasn't been great to begin with but he has been decidedly worse when pressured (25% completion rate, 4.9 yards per attempt, 42.2 QB rating) versus not pressured (59% completion rate, 7.2 yards per attempt, 106.1 QB rating). His O-line has helped him not feel pressure on 80 of 96 pass attempts on the year.
LIONS: Only used heavy blitzes in Week 2 against Seattle (38.6% of snaps), otherwise they've barely brought extra heat. That's because they rank 12th in pass rush pressure rate with only four rushers (34.0%). They didn't blitz a whole lot in two games against the Packers last year either, so they could stick with that approach here.
GOOD NEWS: Love is expected to have speedster Christian Watson back this week after he missed three games with a hamstring issue. Watson and Love were often making splash plays in joint practices and team scrimmages. In his final eight games last year, Watson averaged a 25.6% target per route run rate, 6.5 targets per game and caught a touchdown once every 4.4 receptions.
GB Green Bay • #88
Age: 23 • Experience: Rookie
It's not a stretch to call Musgrave a top-15 Fantasy tight end, but it could be a stretch to say he's anything more than that. Even disappointing veterans like Kyle Pitts and Gerald Everett have a better outlook than Musgrave, especially in non-PPR. Having Aaron Jones back especially could swipe some volume away.
LAST WEEK: Was much more involved in the Packers offense mainly because they were playing from behind. Almost all of his targets were short; the one that wasn't was a Love overthrow on a go route; Love has missed a few of those longer throws to Musgrave. Alternatively, Musgrave was a nice change-up from the run game with a few short designed throws. He also added two red-zone targets to his season tally, which is now at three.
LIONS: Have seen the most TE targets this year even though they've only played against one legit playmaking tight end in Kyle Pitts. Okay, maybe he's a playmaking tight end, I'm getting a little skeptical. Anyway, the Lions have allowed at least 9 PPR points to a tight end in each game this season.
LIONS: They'd startle me if they played a lot of man coverage against the Packers. With Christian Watson back and Jordan Love proving that he's mobile and willing to take deep shots, and with the Saints breaking last week because they wound up playing more man coverage, common sense would suggest they'd play more zone.
MUSGRAVE: At 21.7%, no Packers player has a higher target share against zone this year than Musgrave. He's caught 9 of 13 targets against zone coverage for 104 yards. That's good, but 37 of them came on one play at Chicago in Week 1. Subtract that play and he's averaged 8.4 yards per catch, which is par for the course for an average tight end who can find open space. Point is, Musgrave might need six catches to break 50 yards. That seems unlikely.
Kyle Pitts TE
ATL Atlanta • #8
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The combination of Pitts' lack of explosiveness and his not-ideal circumstances make him tough to reliably start. Tack on a matchup that might be more favorable for the Falcons run game, which Arthur Smith got away from using last week, and Pitts could leave us hanging again. At this point, Evan Engram and Sam LaPorta are easy tight ends to start ahead of Pitts. Hunter Henry and Luke Musgrave could be better, too.
LAST WEEK: Felt a lot like 2022 as Pitts had nine targets but only one was caught for more than 10 yards and two were uncatchable including a deep throw that could have been a long touchdown. He had one red-zone target and no end-zone targets.
FILM: As noted before, Pitts seems to be running at less than 100%, lumbering downfield without much explosion. The Lions didn't do much to specialize their coverage against him, willingly using smaller cornerbacks and frequently focusing more on their scheme. Pitts did find space against zone coverage but not for any special gains.
JAGUARS: Have allowed touchdowns to a tight end in consecutive games -- Travis Kelce in Week 2, Brevin Jordan in Week 3. Both were inside the 10-yard line and on third downs. But only Kelce has had 10-plus PPR points through three weeks against Jacksonville.
FALCONS: Are about league-average in pass-run ratio inside of 10 yards this season (12 total plays). Of the six pass attempts, two have gone to Pitts, but one was thrown over his head and the other was thrown short of the end zone. Three of Atlanta's four touchdowns inside the 10 have come on runs.
MIA Miami • #28
Age: 22 • Experience: Rookie
The hunch is that the Dolphins will keep applying their run game as much as they can. It's been effective, it takes pressure off of Tua Tagovailoa (who does not have a pretty history against Buffalo), it shortens the game and it's not as tough of a matchup as you might think. The concern is whether or not Achane matches Mostert in touches again -- the guess is that he won't -- and if any part of the game script forces the Dolphins to throw more, it should mean less of the rookie. Seventy total yards for Achane with a shot at a score keeps him relevant as a low-end No. 2 running back, one who is worth the risk over any rusher who has struggled with yardage this year, including Dameon Pierce, Alexander Mattison and Najee Harris.
LAST WEEK: You already know Achane was explosive, but almost all of his numbers came after top Broncos run-stopping linebacker Josey Jewell left. It may not have mattered that much but it led to Denver basically being out of position and missing tackles on play after play.
ACHANE: Saw his first snap on the Dolphins' third play of their second drive (after two nice gains by Raheem Mostert) and busted it 26 yards. Then while mixing in with Mostert followed that up with touches for 4, 3, 8, 10, 5, 4 (TD), 8, 1 and 6 yards. Then it was halftime. That doesn't include a 23-yard touchdown run called back by a penalty.
LAST WEEK: Was the first time in Mike McDaniel's' 21 games as the Dolphins playcaller (playoff included) that a running back had over 20 touches. One rusher has had at least 15 touches in 12 of the 21 games with two getting 15 or more touches each on two occasions.
MIAMI: Has become a run-friendly offense, ranking second behind only Philadelphia in rush rate over the past two weeks (55.3%). The only game the Dolphins have thrown the ball more than 51% of the time was Week 1 at the Chargers (69%), likely related to the Chargers putting up points of their own.
BILLS: After getting gashed by Breece Hall in Week 1 have allowed 10 runs of five-plus yards (sixth-fewest) with four missed tackles on RB rushes (fourth fewest) over two games. However, Washington was responsible for seven of those 10 runs last week including four that went 10-plus yards.
Gabe Davis WR
BUF Buffalo • #13
Age: 24 • Experience: 4 yrs.
The good news? Davis is a regular route-runner in Josh Allen's offense. The bad news? Miami's had his number in 2 of their past 3 meetings and have already been better against receivers like him this season. Davis' 14.2% target share is also a problem. Davis is fine as a low-end flex but I'd be more inclined to roll the dice on Tutu Atwell, Jordan Addison, Nathaniel Dell and Josh Palmer.
LAST WEEK: Stayed out wide for most of the game and came through on a glorious 35-yard touchdown bomb from Josh Allen. He had just four targets in a blowout Bills win.
FILM: Davis isn't blazing downfield but the Bills use him as their deep threat. He's third in the NFL in routes of 15-plus yards with 25. He's also mistake-prone -- of his other three targets, one was caught with a foot outside of the end zone, one was dropped and one was picked off in part because Davis didn't fight for the target. He also got locked up versus man coverage quite a bit.
DOLPHINS: Got shredded by the Broncos' outside receivers last week for 190 yards and a score on 13 catches, but that came on 18 targets. And they not only held their own on deep throws in that game (3 of 7 completed for 73 yards against some fast receivers), but on the season they've let up just 5 of 16 long throws for 114 yards with only three yards after the catch total.
HISTORY: Davis lit the Dolphins up in their playoff game last January (6-113-1 on nine targets) but was stymied in their regular season games (9 or fewer PPR points in each). Miami's defensive scheme is better now than it was then.
Joe Burrow QB
CIN Cincinnati • #9
Age: 26 • Experience: 4 yrs.
The Bengals have an interesting dilemma: They haven't been able to dominate with the run much this season, and now they face a matchup where they'll almost certainly have to throw a lot. The good news is that Tennessee just hasn't been good against the pass and, against these receivers, could be burned by broken coverage if they play a lot of man. I wouldn't expect a big game from Burrow, but he could still find 225 yards and two touchdowns, which sounds like next to nothing considering the investment Fantasy managers made in him. I'd rather play a QB with upside including Russell Wilson, Anthony Richardson, Daniel Jones and even Justin Fields.
LAST WEEK: You could tell things just weren't right with Burrow. He continued to get rid of the ball quickly without using his lower body to drive his passes. It reminded me of late-career Peyton Manning.
ADOT: The biggest gripe with Burrow has been how far downfield he's been targeting teammates. In the first half last week his Average Depth of Target was 7.7 yards, which for this version of Burrow was not bad, but he completed just 55% of his passes and was way off on 4 of 5 passes that went 15-plus yards downfield. In the second half Burrow didn't throw downfield as much (5.9 ADOT) and was 1 for 3 passing with the completion being a bootleg lob to Ja'Marr Chase for 43 yards.
TITANS: Have been stellar at stopping the run but stinky against the pass. In consecutive weeks Justin Herbert and Deshaun Watson have posted at least 24 Fantasy points each. Every opponent against Tennessee has attempted at least 33 throws, completed at least 65.9% of them for at least 10.7 yards per attempt. One positive: The Titans are giving up just 4.18 YAC/reception, which is in the top-10. Tennessee has played the seventh-most man coverage (36.5%).
TIME TO THROW: Burrow has averaged getting the ball out under 2.5 seconds in each game this season. When an opponent passes under 2.5 seconds, the Titans are still allowing 8.9 yards per catch (sixth-worst) and a completion rate of 93%, which is dead last in the league.
BAL Baltimore • #8
Age: 26 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Benching Jackson isn't something Fantasy managers really ever think about, but the road matchup figures to be challenging. He might be passing just a bit too cautiously to expect him to get big numbers through the air, too. Very few backup Fantasy quarterbacks could be used ahead of Jackson this week but I like Jordan Love and Russell Wilson as two options ahead of Jackson. However I'd still start Jackson over Geno Smith, Dak Prescott and Justin Fields, among others.
LAST WEEK: Jackson was spectacular as a runner, gaining 101 yards on a season-high 14 carries with two touchdowns against the Colts, who were a pretty good run defense unit coming into the week. That more than made up for his passing, which was efficient (71% completion rate) but not aggressive (6.1 ADOT, only five throws traveled 15 or more Air Yards, three were completed). Worse yet, he was off-target on 26.7% of his throws in the fourth quarter and in overtime, though weather may have played a role.
FILM: Early reads and throws to his tight ends were amazing, but he didn't fire toward Zay Jones on at least three plays where he was open for at least a big gain if not a touchdown. Once Jackson was hit a few times, he seemed really eager to get rid of the ball quickly. That jibes with his completion rate and low ADOT. Jackson, as usual, also scooted from the pocket when there was pressure on him, something every defense that plays him knows about.
BROWNS: Cleveland ranks first in completion rate allowed (48.3%) and has given up just one passing touchdown (the catch-and-run to George Pickens). Offenses are averaging 9.7 yards per throw (eighth-lowest) against the Browns. The lone area Cleveland has not done well in is YAC/reception, and the Pickens TD played a major role in that. Three other throws to Jaylen Warren represent the three next-longest YAC plays allowed by the Browns.
BROWNS ON THE GROUND: Have allowed just 2.8 yards per carry to offenses with only four runs of 10-plus yards allowed and 13 missed tackles (12th best).
BUT: The Browns have played a wounded Joe Burrow, a beleaguered Kenny Pickett and an old Ryan Tannehill this season. They've dominated all three, but it's not exactly a Hall of Fame row of elite pocket passers. Jackson's metrics are either the best or second-best of this lowly group. However, none of them rank in the top-10 among all quarterbacks in yards per attempt, TD rate, Expected Points Added per drop back or QB Rating, and only Tannehill, somehow, ranks inside the top-10 in ADOT and deep pass attempt rate.
HISTORY: Jackson hasn't had multiple touchdowns vs. the Browns since mid-December 2020, and hasn't thrown multiple scores against them since mid-September 2020. To be fair, he's only legitimately faced them twice over the past two seasons.
DEN Denver • #3
Age: 35 • Experience: 12 yrs.
This is a dream spot for the Broncos to be in after their nightmare in Miami last week. Desperate for a win and against an opponent that stinks defensively, Wilson should put up pretty good numbers to help Denver notch a win. It's especially helpful that Wilson has been playing mostly well this season, making him a fairly confident quarterback to start. I'd use him over Geno Smith, Jared Goff, Dak Prescott and Justin Fields.
LAST WEEK: Couldn't quite pay off Fantasy managers in a blowout loss, tossing just one touchdown but still achieving over 300 yards. One reason for it? Too many downfield throws -- nearly 25% of his pass attempts went 20 or more Air Yards.
WILSON: Only has the one big Fantasy session from Week 2 (aided by a couple of deep throws and a Hail Mary), but he's decidedly a better thrower this year than last. Through three weeks he's completed 65.4% of his passes for 7.6 yards per attempt with a 5.8% TD rate and an off-target rate of just 5.8%. Those last three stats are top-six in the league. Last year after three games he completed 59.4% of his throws for 7.0 yards per attempt with a 1.9% TD rate and a 14.2% off-target rate.
DA BEARS: Are sixth-worst in pass rush pressure rate and third-lowest in blitz rate. They have one sack through three games (none in their past two). The two interceptions they've found came in trash time from Blaine Gabbert. And Baker Mayfield was 8 yards shy of having 20 Fantasy points against them in Week 2; the other quarterbacks they've seen have scored at least 28 Fantasy points.
DEEP THROWS: On passes of 15-plus Air Yards, Chicago ranks in the bottom-five in completion rate allowed (61.9%!) and Yards After Catch per reception (YAC/reception) allowed (9.23!) with a bottom-eight rank in yards per catch on those deep throws 30.5 yards.
DEN Denver • #33
Age: 23 • Experience: 3 yrs.
The matchup is great but Williams' game hasn't been. If he had shown more signs of life this season he'd be a must start. Still, there's a good chance he sees a season-high in snaps played and touches, and his work in the passing game could be what sets him apart in Week 4. Bank on volume and start Williams with good expectations as a No. 2 running back ahead of Jerome Ford, Rhamondre Stevenson and Joe Mixon.
LAST WEEK: More of the same from Williams, albeit with one really sharp run where he saw where his blockers were and took advantage for a 16-yard gain, his best run of the year. You'd think he'd do more of that. Williams still played less than 50% of the snaps, barely played on third/fourth downs, wasn't efficient with his runs, couldn't win on edge runs, ran with power but not with speed or snappy change of direction.
SCOREBOARD: When the Broncos have been tied or winning, Williams had had 15 of 23 carries among their RBs. And he's been slightly more efficient then, averaging 4.2 yards per run compared to the 3.6 when they're trailing. This would come in handy this week if they build a lead or at least stay competitive with Chicago.
HOPE? Through three weeks the Bears have allowed running backs to score four times on the ground and have missed a second-worst 23 tackles. They're fourth-worst in runs of five-plus yards allowed (28) and 10th-worst in runs of 10-plus yards allowed (eight). Yet somehow, someway, the Bears are holding RBs to 3.5 yards per rush and have yet to give up a run longer than 18 yards.
EVEN MORE HOPE: Chicago is dead-last in the following receiving metrics against running backs: yards per catch (11.3), YAC/reception (13.4) and Defensive Pass Expected Points Added (-0.75, which is the worst by a longshot). Williams has at least two catches in each game this year and, if the Broncos are paying attention, will give him more against this terrible unit.
MIN Minnesota • #2
Age: 25 • Experience: 5 yrs.
If we knew Mattison wasn't in jeopardy of losing his job he'd be a must-start. That's how good the matchup is. But Mattison is expected to lose carries to Akers to some degree, and the Vikings are already the pass-heaviest offense in football, throwing on average 74.5% of their snaps -- and that number is down from where it was a week ago! Consider Mattison a low-confidence starter who you'll use over any other back who you can't expect too much from, including Rachaad White, Isiah Pacheco, Najee Harris and the Jets' duo.
LAST WEEK: Pillaged the Chargers for his best game so far this season (125 total yards), averaging 4.7 yards per carry and popping three runs for 13-plus yards. He also had a season-high three runs for zero or negative yards, which somehow doesn't seem as high as you'd think given the year he's had.
FILM: Mattison ran hard, played with power and finished all his runs with strength. That part was pretty impressive. His speed? Not as impressive. His elusiveness? Also not impressive. His work at the goal line? Well, he didn't score. Plus he had a drop, and don't ask about his ball security.
FUMBLES: OK fine, ask about his ball security. Though he wasn't credited with a fumble in Week 3, there were two plays where the ball came loose -- once where the ground clearly caused the fumble but another where he was stood up inside the 10-yard line and the ball came out, only for the referees to rule his progress had been stopped.
WARNING: Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell issued a blanket statement this week on fumbles, saying it's "something we're going to fix one way or another. Either guys are going to do it or we're going to have to put other guys in the game that have ball security."
CAM AKERS: Is Minnesota's newest running back. He should not only see some touches in Week 4, but could potentially outright replace Mattison if the latter fumbles.
PANTHERS: Have been awful against the run, yielding at least two touchdowns to a single running back in every game this year. At least one rusher has a minimum of 13 non-PPR/15 PPR points in each game against them.
Adam Thielen WR
CAR Carolina • #19
Age: 33 • Experience: 10 yrs.
Thielen has become a consistent contributor for the Panthers. Minnesota knows just how dangerous he is -- he played for them for nine seasons -- but he's not dangerous enough to warrant double coverage or sacrifice looks toward others when he's on the field. Better in PPR than non-PPR, Thielen is worth starting if catches count over any Texans WR, D.J. Moore and George Pickens.
LAST WEEK: On a 24.6% target share from Andy Dalton, Thielen gobbled up 11 of 14 targets against a zone-heavy Seahawks defense and weaved them into a stunning 145-yard, one-score stat line. Somehow this 33-year-old receiver picked up three gains of at least 23 yards and four others between 10 and 15 yards. He played a season-high 74% of his snaps in the slot.
FILM: I can't say Thielen was fast, but he was definitely as quick as ever in his breaks. The two things that especially stood out was his route variety and his excellent timing with Dalton. #OldGuysRule!
VIKINGS: Didja see what Keenan Allen just did last week?! Over 200 yards against this defense! And guess where Allen lined up on 74% of his snaps? Here's a hint: It rhymes with snot, as in "Allen beat the snot out of Minnesota for 133 yards (with 107 after the catch) when he lined up inside."
VIKINGS: Have not been consistent with their man/zone coverage this year, loading up with zone against the Bucs in Week 1 (91.2% of their snaps) and then going man coverage heavy in Week 3 against the Chargers (just 35.9% of snaps in zone). They may follow suit of most of Carolina's opponents and play more zone coverage.
DALTON: Was key to unlocking Thielen in Week 3. In Week 2, Thielen still had a great target share with Bryce Young (29%) and even posted 18.4 PPR points but was less efficient on a per-catch basis. If you start Thielen, you'd rather have Dalton at this point.
Tutu Atwell WR
LAR L.A. Rams • #5
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
You'd prefer for Atwell to see more man coverage because he can speed past it for some splash plays, but as things stand the Colts are a favorable matchup for him and his 8.67 target-per-game average isn't anything to sneeze at. He's a No. 2 Fantasy WR worth using over D.J. Moore, Zay Flowers, DeAndre Hopkins and both Texans receivers.
THROUGH THREE WEEKS: Atwell is tied for 15th among all wide receivers with 26 targets. Of those 15, Atwell is fifth in yards per catch (14.5) and third in ADOT (13.0 yards), but just 13th in explosive play rate and 14th in catch rate (65.4%). That makes his production -- at least 14.7 PPR points and 8.2 non-PPR points in each game so far this season -- all the more incredible.
ATWELL: He's Matthew Stafford's fastest receiver, which not only has made him the go-to guy when facing man coverage but also a capable catch-and-run threat against zone defenses. His catch rate is superior against zone (73.3%) but he's much more explosive against man coverage (18.0 yards per catch).
COLTS: Have been zone heavy all season long, sometimes playing nothing but zone coverage for quarters at a time. In fact the only time all year when Indy dabbled in man coverage was in the fourth quarter of Week 1 against Jacksonville -- the Jaguars scored 14 points to pull away with the win and that was the end of that.
COLTS: Against all wide receivers Indianapolis has let up a 69.6% catch rate, bottom-eight in football, with nine completions of 20-plus yards (also bottom-eight). Their zone coverage keeps their YAC/reception low (3.44 is top-10) but they rank dead last in missed tackles against receivers with nine. It's a pretty convincing mix for all Rams wideouts.
Najee Harris RB
PIT Pittsburgh • #22
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
If you start Harris, you're hoping he scores in a favorable matchup. But the things that might doom him -- a slow start, a lack of goal-line chances, not getting targets, the Steelers playing from behind, the Texans defense able to wrap him up because he's not elusive nor fast -- are all pretty believable. He's at best a flex option who should be sat for Dameon Pierce, Alexander Mattison and Rachaad White.
LAST WEEK: Harris went over 100 rush yards ... for the season. Held catchless, he turned a season-high 19 carries into 65 scoreless yards, marking a season-low in yards per carry with 3.4 against the Raiders. He also played 50% of the snaps, which was not only a season-low but very close to a career-low.
FILM: Harris has had some nice runs, but he continues to struggle in terms of run blocking and explosion. He did have a few carries where he created yards out of breaking tackles for the second straight week, but it hasn't been enough to make him productive for our tastes.
ALSO: Last week was his lowest rate of zero/negative-yard rushes at 21.1%, which is still awfully high compared to the 17.8% rate the rest of qualifying RBs across the league average.
TEXANS: Aren't a run-stopping machine. In fact they've missed 15 tackles on RB runs over the past two weeks against the Colts and Jaguars. They've allowed at least one rushing touchdown to a RB in each game this season with four coming inside the five-yard line.
STEELERS: Have run ONE play from inside the 5-yard line this season, and it happened in Week 1. Pat Freiermuth scored a touchdown. At least Harris was on the field for that play. The Steelers have run just 13 red-zone plays all season (Harris in on seven of them). Only Carolina has played fewer red-zone snaps.
PIT Pittsburgh • #88
Age: 25 • Experience: 3 yrs.
Freiermuth talked this week about wanting to "attack what they give us." If that's the case then maybe there's some hope of Freiermuth catching those short check-down passes against zone coverage. But those throws have not been what Pickett regularly makes -- he tries to make things happen further downfield. It's still good news that Freiermuth is thought of as a touchdown target, so use him accordingly as a TD-reliant Fantasy tight end who might only give 30 yards even if he does score. Tight ends like Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett and Jake Ferguson have slightly better outlooks and are better Fantasy options this week.
LAST WEEK: Had just four targets, but that matched a season-high and he set season-highs in catches (three) and yards (41) and had a touchdown.
TARGETS: Despite being fifth on the team in target share at a measly 8.9%, Freiermuth leads the Steelers in both red-zone targets (four) and end-zone targets (also four).
FILM: Two huge disappointments: One, he's not an every-down route-runner as he's played on 82 of a possible 114 pass snaps. A Week 1 chest injury may have played a role in being limited then and in the two games after. Two, he isn't credited with any drops but he's had at least three close calls that wound up incomplete.
TEXANS: Have been ripped by tight ends in each of their past two games, but mostly as check-down options when the Texans use heavy zone coverage. For instance, 6 of Evan Engram's 8 targets last week were within four yards of the line of scrimmage; the week before all but two of the Colts' seven collective tight-end targets were within six yards of the line of scrimmage.
FREIERMUTH: Only has nine targets on the season, which is shocking and annoying, but of those nine only three have been within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and one was for a three-yard touchdown. The Steelers have had Freiermuth run routes as a safety valve against zone coverage, but Kenny Pickett has looked further downfield, especially on third downs.
Mike Evans WR
TB Tampa Bay • #13
Age: 30 • Experience: 10 yrs.
It's OK to start Evans with lowered expectations given Lattimore and the Saints' history of keeping him locked up. It's also OK to start Chris Godwin with higher expectations since he has 13-plus PPR points in 5 of his past 7 against the Saints and will almost certainly see easier matchups. Should managers start Evans over Godwin? That feels a little risky. But starting Zay Flowers, Jordan Addison, Tank Dell or Christian Kirk over Evans carries enough upside to make it worth considering.
HISTORY: Maybe you know this, maybe you don't, but Evans has scored 12.8 PPR points or fewer in each of his past nine games against the Saints. Shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore is a key figure in Evans' lack of production, but even he missed two of those nine games including these teams' last meeting where Evans had a 4-59-0 stat line last December. Something the Saints do keeps Evans under wraps.
EVANS: Has seen 9.3 targets per game this year, more than one full target per game higher than last year and two full targets per game higher than 2021. And he's been great with them, setting three-year highs in yards per catch (17.5!), target per route run (32.6% of his routes), ADOT, YAC/reception and explosive play rate. He's also halfway to his 2022 season touchdown total.
SAINTS: Allowed a touchdown to a wideout in each of their past two games, but neither were Lattimore's fault. In fact the Saints have been aggressive with their man coverage this year, ranking fifth-lowest in the safer zone-coverage snaps. That actually cost them last week as the Packers came back against their man-heavy pass coverage in the fourth quarter. But no receiver has more than 73 yards against them, and the two receivers who scored on New Orleans are the only two to notch more than 13 PPR points against them.
TB Tampa Bay • #1
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
Todd Bowles didn't exactly give White a vote of confidence this week but did openly suggest his back needs to accept smaller gains in hopes of breaking longer ones as the game goes on. White doesn't have a rush longer than 13 yards this year, so it's tough to buy into him breaking many long ones, period. If White were to be effective for Fantasy, it would come on large volume in a low-scoring game with a touchdown. That's possible, but not exactly what you want to count on in your lineups. Just outside of my top 24 running backs, I'd rather chance it with Isiah Pacheco, Alexander Mattison and Javonte Williams.
LAST WEEK: Couldn't get much going against the Eagles' rabid front even though he had 14 carries and played 91% of the snaps. He also caught all three targets for 24 yards. When asked about the Bucs run game after their Monday night loss, coach Todd Bowles said "we didn't have one."
WHITE: According to Next Gen Stats, has totaled negative-65 rushing yards over expected so far this season. That sounds bad. White has only been over 40 rushing yards once this season, at Chicago, and is averaging 3.1 yards per carry with 0.81 yards before contact over 48 runs. That also sounds bad.
SAINTS: Their run defense has given up just 3.9 yards per carry but ranked sixth-best in rushes of five-plus yards allowed, and they've held enemy RBs to 1.34 yards before contact per rush (which is a little worst than league average but weighted by the Titans in Week 1).
WHITE: Has contributed as a pass-catcher, which is obvious given how much he plays. He has yet to miss a target and is averaging 6.4 yards per catch, which isn't bad.
HISTORY: There's context needed but New Orleans held White to just 3.1 yards per carry in Week 13 last year. Leonard Fournette started, played 60% of the snaps, saw 16 touches and was much more efficient on the ground.
WAS Washington • #8
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
We learned last week that Washington is willing to bypass Robinson's normal workload if it means throwing to get back into a game. And, we've known for a while that the Commanders prefer Antonio Gibson on passing downs. If the Eagles do what they've been doing then Sam Howell & Co. will have to abandon the run -- and even if they don't there's still a pretty decent shot Robinson doesn't explode. He feels touchdown-reliant, albeit with the potential for maybe 75 yards. I don't mind using him strictly in non-PPR over upside plays like De'Von Achane and Jahmyr Gibbs, and he belongs ahead of Rachaad White and Najee Harris in all formats, but RBs like Jerome Ford and James Cook should start ahead of Robinson.
ROBINSON: Has shown much more efficiency over his past two games. After bashing the Broncos in Week 2, he averaged 7.0 yards per carry against the Bills, but only played 37% of the snaps and recorded 10 carries. Had he been given more of a chance to run in the second half (zero fourth-quarter carries) he could have potentially helped the Commanders stay in the game.
OF NOTE: Robinson has hit over 3.5 yards after contact per rush in his past two games with 11 missed tackles on runs and receptions. That's specifically a sign he's improving as a yards creator.
FILM: His balance and agility have really been great, even if he doesn't have a top gear to speed away from defenders when he does bounce off of and break through tackles.
EAGLES: Have been outstanding against running backs, pinning them to 2.8 yards per rush on the year and 1.45 yards after contact per rush with only two plays of 10-plus yards allowed and five missed tackles. They have not seen a slew of great runners (Pats, Vikes, Bucs), but they're crushing the guys they have seen.
LAST YEAR: Robinson did score on the Eagles in a 26-carry, 86-yard victory. It wasn't efficient, but the workload was there against a similarly strong run defense.
PHI Philadelphia • #88
Age: 28 • Experience: 6 yrs.
Goedert remains an easy start in PPR because his floor is about 9 PPR points. That's not really a good thing, but since there are so few tight ends with a floor higher than that, it works for him as a low-end starter. He's much more of a liability in non-PPR leagues since he's not averaging 10 yards per catch and has yet to even have a chance to catch a touchdown. Given the tricky matchup I'd chance this week on Jake Ferguson, Hunter Henry or even Gerald Everett in non-PPR leagues.
TWO WEEKS IN A ROW: With seven targets, which is terrific, but he's turned them into stat lines that read 6-22-0 and 5-41-0. It's good that he's involved, bad that he's shown no sign of being explosive.
COMMANDERS: Have been great against tight ends all season, cleaning up against the Bills last week and even doing all they could to keep Zach Ertz off the scoreboard and from gaining yards after the catch in Week 1. All told, the Commanders have allowed just 29 yards after catch to tight ends on 11 receptions; only four other teams have a lower YAC/reception allowed rate.
GOEDERT: Has one red-zone target and zero end-zone targets this season.
EAGLES: Have the third-lowest pass rate on snaps inside the 10 this season at 27.3% only Tennessee and Buffalo (!) are lower. Philly has run the sixth-most plays inside of 10 yards through three weeks (22).
Josh Palmer WR
LAC L.A. Chargers • #5
Age: 24 • Experience: 3 yrs.
As No. 3 receivers go, Palmer fits the bill. He's been in this spot before and hasn't stunk, plus the matchup suggests Palmer could work his way up to 15 PPR points, which is great. Because the turn to Johnston doesn't figure to happen so soon, Palmer is usable in Fantasy ahead of Garrett Wilson, Chris Godwin and the Commanders receivers.
PALMER: Has primarily lined up as an outside receiver (72% of his snaps) but did see an uptick in the slot (27.3% of his fourth-quarter snaps) once Mike Williams left the team's Week 3 game. His lone catch after the Williams injury was a deep target from Herbert that banged off the hands of Vikings CB Akayleb Evans and into Palmer's mitts for a touchdown. It wound up being the game-winning touchdown.
WITHOUT WILLIAMS: In six games Williams either missed or barely played in since 2021, Palmer has delivered at least 12 PPR points four times and 15-plus PPR points three times. It's assumed he will be a target-getter in the offense in the short term as the Chargers use this time to ease rookie standout Quentin Johnston into a meaningful role.
FILM: Palmer is solid, not special. He quickly breaks into his routes and seems to specialize more as a short-area option rather than a deep threat. He's also an accomplished blocker. By comparison, Johnston has much more upside due to his massive size and good speed.
RAIDERS: Each of the first three No. 1 receivers the Raiders have defended -- Courtland Sutton, Stefon Diggs and George Pickens -- have between 11 and 13 PPR points each with one touchdown combined. Each of the first three No. 2 receivers the Raiders have defended -- LilJordan Humphrey, Gabe Davis and Calvin Austin -- have between 9 and 21 PPR points each (two had 15-plus), and all three have scored. If this holds up, Palmer could find the end zone and potentially deliver a nice stat line.
SF San Francisco • #11
Age: 25 • Experience: 4 yrs.
Aiyuk is going to start for Fantasy managers whether or not Samuel plays, but his upside is much brighter if Samuel rests. Be ready to start Aiyuk over Tyler Lockett, Christian Kirk and Mike Evans.
THIS WEEK: Aiyuk is expected to return after hurting his shoulder in Week 2. He was on his way to at least a decent game before the injury limited his snaps (43 yards on three catches over 30 snaps). You probably already knew he crushed the Steelers in Week 1.
AIYUK: Not only has he been much more explosive against man coverage this year than zone, but he's targeted on his routes 20 percentage points higher when it's been man coverage (41.2% versus man, 21.2% versus zone). The gap wasn't quite as big in 2022 (nine percentage points higher versus zone) but he scored 6 of his 8 touchdowns against man coverage.
CARDINALS: Played zone coverage at a rate just higher than league average (71.5%) and seemed to steer away from man coverage through three weeks. That's bad news for Aiyuk, who tends to feast on man coverage and get restrained, at least a little bit, by zone coverage.
GANNON: Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon schemed for Aiyuk twice once in 2021 and once in the 2022 playoffs, and managed to keep his numbers meager, though that playoff game comes with a big ol' asterisk since the Niners basically played without a quarterback.
SAMUEL: There's a chance 49ers receiver Deebo Samuel misses the game with rib and knee injuries. If that happens then the target share for Aiyuk should open up. In four games without Samuel last year he averaged 7.25 targets, 5.5 receptions and 70.5 receiving yards per game with two scores.
Dak Prescott QB
DAL Dallas • #4
Age: 30 • Experience: 8 yrs.
I don't mind starting Prescott IF his offensive line is healthy. However, that includes his left tackle, and Tyron Smith isn't going to play -- the interior guys might. Repeat, MIGHT. Prescott's at his best when he's protected and the Patriots will attack him if they think they can get to him easily. I have Geno Smith, Russell Wilson, Anthony Richardson and Justin Fields ranked ahead of Prescott.
LAST WEEK: Prescott was pressured by an underrated Cardinals pass defense in very large part because his starting offensive line was missing three starters. He didn't challenge downfield much and was lucky to get 15 Fantasy points.
O-LINE: Notably, the starters missing were legendary guard Zach Martin, legendary tackle Tyron Smith and center Tyler Biadasz. Two of the replacements graded poorly per Pro Football Focus in pass protection and allowed three pressures each. The center, Brock Hoffman, was much better pass blocking but struggled to run block. It looks like Martin and Biadasz have a shot to play; Smith has been ruled out.
PATRIOTS: Rank top-12 in pass rush pressure rate (37.6%) and top-10 in blitz rate (33%). They've feasted on weak offensive lines as recently as last week against the Jets and figure to apply plenty of pressure on Prescott this week.
THIS YEAR: Have held Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Aaron Rodgers' backup to 13 or fewer Fantasy points each.
PRESCOTT: On 31 dropbacks when he's been pressured this season, Prescott has completed 50% of his throws for 3.8 yards per attempt and a touchdown. When he hasn't been pressured he's completed 73% of his throws for 7.1 yards per attempt and two touchdowns.
HISTORY: Prescott smashed the Patriots in 2021 for 445 yards and three touchdowns with two turnovers in a 35-29 win. His offensive line was healthy for the game and actually made up of most of the same people who would be starting for him on Sunday if they were healthy.
KC Kansas City • #10
Age: 24 • Experience: 2 yrs.
The hunch is the Jets do what every other defense does and dare the Chiefs to run the ball. That doesn't guarantee a great game for Pacheco, but it probably should at least mean an efficient one. If Kansas City keeps using Pacheco like a feature back who works inside the 10-yard line a lot, then he'll be a reliable No. 2 Fantasy running back from week to week. This matchup isn't perfect for Pacheco, so figure him as a very low-end option. I'd rather start Alexander Mattison, De'Von Achane and Javonte Williams, but I'd use Pacheco over Najee Harris, Breece Hall and Gus Edwards.
LAST WEEK: Was the first time all season Pacheco looked like Kansas City's lead running back. Playing with Patrick Mahomes, Pacheco paced all runners with 58% of the snap share and 17 touches. He also played 9 of 13 snaps inside the 10, invading on Jerick McKinnon's role (even though McKinnon himself had a pair of short-yardage scores). And once Mahomes was benched, Pacheco was too -- McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helaire split reps with backup Blaine Gabbert.
PACHECO: Has started to break out a little over the past two weeks with a 4.9-yard rushing average and 3.22 yards after contact per rush. Also, over a third of his carries (10 of 27) have gone for five-plus yards. But best of all, he's avoided 10 tackles over these last two weeks. All of the stats you just read rank in the top-11 among RBs with at least 20 carries since Week 2.
JETS: Began the season with really good run defense metrics against the Bills and Cowboys, but got knocked around a little last week by the Patriots (of all teams). Part of it had to do with New England running a lot (35 RB runs), but even in the first half Gang Green allowed 4.5 yards per carry. In total, New England had a DOZEN runs of five-plus yards and four of 10-plus yards against the Jets.
Daniel Jones QB
NYG N.Y. Giants • #8
Age: 26 • Experience: 5 yrs.
If Jones' protection is better then I think he can be helpful for Fantasy managers. Seattle's defense struggled with Dalton last week, Goff the week prior and even Matthew Stafford threw for 334 yards in Week 1. I like Jones a little better if Saquon Barkley doesn't play or is on a limited snap count. This week I would start Jones over Goff, Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott.
LAST WEEK: Jones faced his second impossible matchup in three weeks and was harassed by a healthy 49ers pass rush without the benefit of his starting offensive line. He also didn't have Saquon Barkley with him, nor did he get a great game out of tight end Darren Waller, who seemed to not run with as much explosiveness nor make the maximum effort to reel in some of his targets.
LAST YEAR: Jones completed just 17 of 31 passes for 176 sad, scoreless yards at Seattle, getting sacked five times. He did have Saquon Barkley (who didn't have a great game but did score), but did not have Waller, Parris Campbell or Isaiah Hodgins -- those three guys have seen 45 targets from Jones through three weeks and have improved his receiving corps considerably.
SEAHAWKS: Have reliably played nearly 80% or more of their snaps in zone coverage this year and aren't likely to change gears here. In Week 8 last season versus the Giants they played 92.2% of their snaps in zone coverage.
QBs: Both Andy Dalton and Jared Goff scored at least 27 Fantasy points each against the Seahawks in consecutive weeks.
PASS RUSH: Seattle's been improving here, getting two sacks at Detroit and three versus Carolina's woeful unit last week. They don't blitz much and really have only generated a high pass rush pressure rate against the Panthers (43.5%).
O-LINE: It sounds like left tackle Andrew Thomas and left guard Ben Bredeson will play for New York, boosting a front five that's been under siege since Week 1.